Feb. 2, 2012 – I check my PayPal account to find out if they are planning to cover my $675 loss from the theft of my gold bar in an eBay auction, and will cease and desist trying to charge my credit card for the same amount. Here’s the message I find:
“We have completed our investigation. After reviewing the details of this case, we have determined that it is unlikely that we will be able to successfully dispute this chargeback. This matter has been resolved and no funds were debited from your account for this chargeback.”
That’s big of you PayPal, agreeing not to CHARGE ME for $675 when I’M THE ONE WHO HAS LOST THE MONEY TO A THIEF ON eBAY.
With at least this one galling issue resolved (PayPal charging my credit card without my authorization for $675 by tacking this amount on to another eBay purchase I made), I want to know why in hell the fraudulent purchase by “Edo Tanaka” of my gold bar isn’t covered by PayPal or eBay’s seller protection policies.
To get this answered requires a call to PayPal “customer service.”
Lightning flash illuminating unspeakably menacing mansion on high, flourish of scary music, a woman’s bloodcurdling scream, girding of loins.
The first customer service rep tells me he can’t talk to me because I’m not Rob, my husband, whose name the account is under. Yada, yada, I’ve heard this before, every time I call. Guess you didn’t get the memo from my husband which he emailed and faxed, giving permission for me to speak directly with “customer service” on this matter. Actually, I guess you did get the memo, but because you are PayPal, you don’t give a rat’s ass about helping your customers.
I get supervisor Graham ID #42317 on the line, who at least will answer Yes/No type questions about my case. He tells me if Rob calls then he can discuss the chargeback and why it happened. Graham, Graham, Graham, you poor mental midget. I already know why there was a chargeback, and if anyone at PayPal bothered to read the copious documentation I’ve sent, you’d know, too. There was a chargeback because buyer “Edo Tanaka” used a stolen credit card to buy my gold bar.
Like a hostage at the mercy of an unstable gunman, I keep Graham talking, hoping he will let down his guard, share some insight, provide some gem of real information about how I can recoup the money stolen from me on eBay and PayPal.
Graham indeed slips up. He gives me useful information and tells me where to find it: the Seller Protection plan, a nice theoretical corporate policy buried in PayPal’s bottom menu under Legal Agreements, reading in part, “PayPal will protect you for the full amount of the eligible payment and waive the Chargeback Fee, if applicable.”
So what sales on eBay/transactions on PayPal are “applicable?” What classifies as an “eligible payment?”
When is a seller really protected for eBay/PayPal transactions?
First, I learn that sellers aren’t protected if they sold services. Through hypothetical, leading questions (“say I had a friend who used a stolen credit card to buy something on eBay,” etc.) I get Graham to speculate that perhaps “Edo Tanaka” the eBay thief paid for my gold bar by categorizing it as a “service payment.” If he did, this would make my sale ineligible for the Seller Protection plan.
Seriously? A unilateral decision by the buyer determines whether or not the seller gets consumer protection? What rot, PayPal/eBay.
Also, to have an “applicable” sale that qualifies for seller protection, you have to had shipped your item to the shipping address on the Transaction Details Page, live in the U.S., provide proof of delivery. No worries on my transaction, check, check and check.
So what’s the problem? Why am I denied Seller Protection?
Graham clams up. He has remembered that I am not my husband Rob. We wrap up our little tete-a-tete, and I ask Graham for the name and phone number of someone at Legal Services, so I can take my issues up the corporate ladder. He says he only has a mailing address. I ask what town it’s in so I can look up the phone number myself. He tells me to refer to my original letter to them.
Oh yeah, that’s right, this is PayPal and it actually HURTS to provide customers information when they ask for it. Why can’t I get that through my thick skull?
When Rob is available to authorize PayPal to talk to me, I get connected with Abel #46146. I ask why I do not have Seller Protection on this dispute. He tells me, “the ineligibility is due to fact that this is a high-risk sale because it is a gold bar.” I ask to see where that is written. He directs me to section 11.5 of PayPal’s Protection for Sellers policy in its User Agreement. It’s not there.
I ask to speak to a supervisor, and get connected with Andrew. He lets me know that actually, there’s nothing against gold bars in the policy. The issue on my transaction is found in the fine print in section 11.5c Unauthorized Transactions Additional Requirements:
- “The payment must be marked ‘eligible’ for PayPal Seller protection on the Transaction Details Page.”
Andrew explains that once a transaction is made on eBay, PayPal’s algorithm looks at it and determines whether it is “high risk,” then retroactively, once the eBay auction is already a done deal, PayPal decides whether or not it will cover the transaction under its Seller Protection policy. He says this information is listed in PayPal’s account system, and that a buyer can decide to back out of the auction/transaction then.
So, THE MOMENT IN TIME WHEN EBAY/PAYPAL DECIDES WHETHER OR NOT TO PROTECT A SELLER OR NOT IS AFTER YOUR AUCTION IS OVER. You’ve sold your item, your buyer has committed and perhaps even made payment. But unless you know to look for it–and how, and where–you, the seller, won’t know that your transaction is considered “high risk” by PayPal and will not be covered under the Seller Protection policy. Nobody at eBay is going to alert you to it. I still don’t understand where this notification appears. But Andrew tells me it is so.
Feb. 6, 2012 – I get a long email from Nic Oliphant, office of the President at eBay. In summary, he lets me know it’s just not their fault. Actually it’s American Express that is the cause of all the problems: “It is important that you understand that PayPal received the notification from American Express that the payment was being disputed, and that American Express is the company who is ultimately holding you responsible to refund the money to the cardholder who disputing the charges. Please work directly with PayPal and American Express to reach a resolution regarding this difficult situation.”
Sorry Nic, not good enough. I’ve got my hands full just trying to hold eBay and PayPal accountable. It’s up to YOU and PAYPAL, not me, to work it out with American Express.
Feb. 15, 2012 – demonstrating consumer harassment of epic proportions, PayPal pursues AlmostaRanch, the good people who sold me a $50 horse blanket on eBay, for the $675 they tried to charge my credit card. Not kidding. Because I filed a complaint with my Visa card company regarding PayPal’s ridiculous charge, now PayPal is levying a drive-by charge on an innocent bystander.
Fortunately, I had written to this eBay vendor several weeks back, alerting her that I was disputing not her fee, but the unauthorized fee PayPal tried to charge to my Visa. She is appropriately outraged: “Well Paypal is now coming after me for your $665 amount…Now I am involved in this…They are attempting to charge my card for this amount now when it has NOTHING to do with me! OMG!! WHat is going on?? They did a chargeback with this neck cover…”
Almostaranch is a much better person than I am. It’s the only way I can explain why PayPal “customer service” ACTUALLY LISTENED TO HER WHEN SHE EXPLAINED WHY THEY CANNOT BILL HER $650 FOR NO REASON. PayPal actually closed the case and put the funds back in her account. THEY EVEN APOLOGIZED.
Life is not fair.
I have lost several weeks of productive time. I have emailed and tweeted U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus who chairs the House Committee on Financial Services, Senator Mark Pryor who chairs the Senate Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Subcommittee, my Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and my U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.
I’ve emailed eBay CEO John Donohoe and PayPal President Scott Thompson with my story. I’ve tried to get the attention of Ranjana Clark, SVP, Chief Customer & Marketing Officer at PayPal and John Muller, PayPal’s VP Legal/General Counsel via Twitter.
I’m consulting with a lawyer and deciphering whether there may be a federal class action lawsuit warranted.
And in one hopeful development, I’m pleased to report that Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley’s office is now pursuing this matter on my behalf. So perhaps there will be a regulatory hammer coming down on these out-of-control companies. Stay tuned on that. And in the meantime here are
Top Three Tips to eBay sellers and PayPal users so you don’t get cheated out of your money
- Don’t use PayPal.
- Don’t sell gold or other valuables on eBay.
- Don’t sell an eBay item under the following circumstances:
- The buyer pays using PayPal Direct Payments.
- The buyer directs you to ship the item to an address different from the one eBay/PayPal has on file.
- If you originally ship the item to the recipient’s shipping address on the Transaction Details Page address but the item is later redirected to a different address.
- The buyer claims your purchase is for a service.